Exercise 1.1: research: Other Photographers 01

I’ve decided to look at the work of all photographers suggested as research for this exercise. However, I don’t intend to spend too much time doing anything but talking about a few examples I choose and commenting on how those examples relate to my ideas/how they inspire me. I did originally intend to do a bit more research for this exercise and, possibly, explore how and why the images were made. But after reading a blog post by fellow OCA student Emma—particularly when it comes to how much research is necessary—I’ve decided that I need to step back a little from my books/words and spend a lot more time with my camera. I’m beginning to understand that losing myself in books about photography is preventing me from actually doing photography. As much as I love to read about photography, I much prefer to do it. And, quite honestly, I learn a hell of a lot more by making/reviewing/considering my own images than I do reading about images made by other photographers. ‘Nuff said.

Diane Arbus1, 2

I find the work of Arbus so interesting. I mean, what’s not to love about the ability to stare at people who seem so different to the self? And it’s not because I want to laugh at/ridicule other people based on their differences… it’s more that I find difference so interesting. Sometimes, I’m even jealous of it. The boldness of people who just don’t care a damn about what other people think, I mean.

That said, for this post I chose examples of Arbus’s work that show subjects who, I assume, are willing to be photographed *because* of their difference. Put another way, people who want to be seen as different by viewers of the images (for me, it’s a form of permission: I am different, I don’t care that I’m different, I want to be seen as different). Other examples of Arbus’s work—for example, her photographs of people with Down’s Syndrome—I find terribly offensive. Don’t get me wrong, to not photograph people with Down’s Syndrome would be just as offensive to me. My point: to use Down’s Syndrome as the reason to (or not to) photograph a person is my problem. Maybe that’s because I have friends who have siblings/children with Down’s Syndrome, but I hope not. I’m sure that I would be offended by the idea even if I had never known the difficulties faced by people with Down’s Syndrome (note: the above doesn’t apply when it comes to medical photography. Provided, of course, that the medical photography doesn’t end up on the gallery wall).

So, what do I take from Arbus? It’s okay for me to photograph people who are different provided they are aware/give me permission to photograph them *because* of that difference. Basically, for any kind of photography I do, I want the person I photograph to always be aware of my intention.

Richard Avedon3, 4, 5

I am totally in love with Avedon’s work. But again, even though I love so much of his work, like Arbus, I have a problem with some of his images. The first two images shown are just so typically Avedon—white background/straight on—and it’s what I love about his photography… it’s so beautifully harsh. For me, the images show the “other” in quite a freaky/disturbing way (the pose, the contrast, the bright white, and the expressions of the subjects). Viewing the images and seeing the subject look at me, it’s almost as if Avedon has totally inverted the situation and made me—the viewer—the “other”. When I view Arbus’s work, I am very aware that I’m looking at the subject but Avedon’s images somehow make me feel as if I’m the one being looked at. This makes the subject so much more powerful that it’s almost intimidating. In fact, if someone could capture this exact same strength in a photo showing a person with Down’s Syndrome, perhaps I would be okay with it? The subject’s strength changes *everything* for me.

I can’t say the same about the third image, showing a patient of a mental institution. I find it another example of a person being photographed because of his difference but being unaware that his difference is the reason for the image (unlike the first two). I just have such a problem with images made of people who are unable to give consent (the reason why I had such a hard time with candid photography, I suppose).

I couldn’t end this section without including the following image6:

Andy Warhol and Members of the Factory, 30 October 1969 1969 by Richard Avedon 1923-2004

I just love the above image. And, believe it or not, it’s not because of the skin. It’s the format I love. I was considering creating sets of triptychs for this exercise and the above image makes me want to explore that possibility even more (that said, the more I look at it, the more I think of a Benetton/GAP advert and that’s not really my thing).

Rineke Dijkstra

I’ve looked at Dijkstra’s work while studying other modules, however, both the course work and fellow OCA student Judy Bach suggested I take another look at her work for this exercise. So that’s what I did. Even though I prefaced this post by saying that I wouldn’t do book-research, I just couldn’t help myself with this photographer. Consider the following quote taken from Charlotte Cotton’s The Photograph as Contemporary Art:

“In the early to mid-1990s, [Dijkstra] photographed children and young teenagers on beaches as they came out of the sea. Dijkstra captured the vulnerability and physical self-consciousness of her subjects as they were caught in that transitional space of exposure between the protection of being in the water and the anonymity of sitting or lying on a beach towel. The choice of a particular moment or space in which to portray her subjects is a governing element of Dijkstra’s work.” (Cotton, 2014: p.111-112)7

I love this idea of choosing a particular moment in space to portray a subject and I really think it worked so well for so many of Dijkstra’s portraits. Consider the following examples8, 9, 10 showing three women at different stages after childbirth:

According to tate.org.uk, “While bearing signs of their recent ordeal – the medical pants and sanitary towel which Julie wears, a trickle of blood down the inside of Tecla’s left leg, the caesarean scar on Saskia’s belly – the women appear proud and happy.”11

Far be it from me to argue with the tate website, but I struggle to see happiness in the images above (what was I expecting, I wonder? Wide, toothy-grins?). That said, I see so much in the way these woman hold themselves and their babies; they all appear so proud, so calm/unphased… and, tbh, so different to how I’d expect.

After typing the above, I wonder, is the way these women appear so composed after such a traumatic experience (both physically and mentally) the happiness I thought I couldn’t see? Funny, I spend so much time reading someone’s expressions to gauge emotion–me, the person who understands completely that a smile is rarely a reliable indication of how a person truly feels inside (I’m a Prozac Pro)–when, maybe, faces are the last thing I should concern myself with.

While I’ve seen the above images before, oddly, it’s only now looking at/thinking about them for this exercise that I’m beginning to see just how brilliant they are.

Sideline: I read that the women photographed were friends of Dijkstra and it reminded me of how another photographer-favourite of mine, Mona Kuhn, also uses friends as models. To use nothing but friends/friends of friends in my photography would be my *absolute* dream–I’m still so terrified of strangers.

So, what do I take from Dijkstra? I’m really interested in the idea of finding a space to portray a subject but I’m not quite sure how I could achieve that for this exercise. I suppose it depends on the model… they would have to be or do something that offers the space to photograph. Need to think. Irrelevant of whether or not I find a way to explore this space, it’s definitely something I’d like to think about in the future. Also, as much as my comfort-zine hates to admit, there’s so much more I can achieve with my photography if I move the camera away from myself.

Sideline: I’m always so concerned when other photographers cause me to think about how they work… I’m worried that emulating other photographers is another example of doing what someone has already done before.

To close this section, I wanted to include more examples of Dijkstra’s beach portraits, shown below12, 13, 14, 15:

I love the images above and I totally get that sense of vulnerability/awkwardness (again, it’s the bodies and the way the subjects hold themselves). What I really like about them, however, is the light, achieved by using a combination of flash/natural light (again, flash photography is something I’m really into exploring).

Katy Grannan16, 17, 18

I so don’t want to like the images above because I feel so incapable of making anything similar. And yet, I really *really* like Grannan’s work. The examples above are the result of Grannan approaching strangers and asking to take their portraits (I believe that each person photographed is compensated financially). I just find the people Grannan photographs so interesting to look at (the third image above is my absolute favourite).

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen someone on the street and felt a strong urge to photograph them. Perhaps it’s something about how a person looks, or how they are dressed, or possibly how they move. Irrelevant of what inspires me, I’ve never moved further than the desire to want to ask them. I just can’t jump that flipping hurdle. Perhaps it will always be a problem for me. Perhaps that inability will always determine direction in my photography. Or perhaps this exercise and the experience of working with strangers will push me towards that goal. That said, I think money is a good motivator and I’m pretty sure I’d feel a lot more comfortable approaching people if I could sweeten the deal with a twenty (is £20 even enough, I wonder?)

NOTE: I decided to split this research into two posts (this post was getting rather large). This is the end of the first.


1 – Diane Arbus, Jack Dracula, the Marked Man, 1961 – http://www.artnet.com/artists/diane-arbus/jack-dracula-the-marked-man-a-XObEaJKKVaVV7MHzEF2B4Q2 [accessed 10/12/18]

2 – Diane Arbus, The Human Pincushion, Roland C. Harrison, MD, 1962 – http://www.artnet.com/artists/diane-arbus/the-human-pincushion-roland-c-harrison-md-a-AMsCOsAY8TmcLp8qCjxxoQ2 [accessed 1012/18]

3 – Richard Avedon, Ronald Fischer, beekeeper, Davis, California, 1981 – https://www.avedonfoundation.org/the-work [accessed 10/12/18]

4 – Richard Avedon, Boyd Fortin, thirteen-year-old rattlesnake skinner, Sweetwater, 1979 – https://www.avedonfoundation.org/the-work [accessed 10/12/18]

5 – Richard Avedon, Mental Institution #3, East Louisiana State Mental Hospital, Jackson, Louisiana, 1963 – https://www.avedonfoundation.org/the-work [accessed 10/12/18]

6 – Richard Avedon, Andy Warhol and Members of the Factory, 1969 – https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/avedon-andy-warhol-and-members-of-the-factory-30-october-1969-p13101 [accessed 10/12/18]

7 – Charlotte Cotton, The Photograph as Contemporary Art, third edition, 2014. Thames & Hudson, Ltd.: London.

8 – Rineke Dijkstra, Julie, Den Haag, Netherlands, 1994 – https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/dijkstra-julie-den-haag-netherlands-february-29-1994-p78097 [accessed 11/12/18]

9 – Rineke Dijkstra, Tecla, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1994 – https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/dijkstra-tecla-amsterdam-netherlands-may-16-1994-p78098 [accessed 11/12/18]

10 – Rineke Dijkstra, Saskia, Harderwijk, Netherlands, 1994 – https://www.tate.org.uk/art/images/work/P/P78/P78099_8.jpg [accessed 11/12/18]

11 – https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/dijkstra-julie-den-haag-netherlands-february-29-1994-p78097 [accessed 11/12/18]

12 – Rineke Dijkstra, Kolobrzeg, Poland, July 26, 1992 – http://www.artnet.com/artists/rineke-dijkstra/kolobrzeg-poland-26-july-FQreE0vQ4iCuAsPozecBxg2 [accessed 11/12/18]

13 – Rineke Dijkstra, Dubrovnik, Croatia, July 13, 1996 – http://www.artnet.com/artists/rineke-dijkstra/dubrovnik-croatia-july-13-1996-m6DTMPuwdFKVUkrkfD6k_Q2 %5Baccessed 11/12/18]

14 – Rineke Dijkstra, Dubrovnik, Croatie, July 16, 1996 – http://www.artnet.com/artists/rineke-dijkstra/dubrovnik-croatie-july-16-1996-FGBPP8cu7I-xoSPqvkCowA2 [accessed 11/12/18]

15 – Rineke Dijkstra, Kolobrzeg, Poland, July 27, 1992 – http://www.artnet.com/artists/rineke-dijkstra/kolobrzeg-poland-july-27-_4grMaYmxnBS-cAyjFWaSg2 [accessed 11/12/18]

16 – Katy Grannan, Anonymous, Boulevard Series, 2008-2010 – http://www.artnet.com/artists/katy-grannan/anonymous-boulevard-series-a-f_d0_hf5bDvBqyEd-WpJGw2 [accessed 11/12/18]

17 – Katy Grannan, Anonymous, San Francisco, 2010 – http://www.artnet.com/artists/katy-grannan/anonymous-san-francisco-2010-a-eIGWp7zJKSoW_FBUyhlkAA2 [accessed 11/12/18]

18 – Katy Grannan, Anonymous, Los Angeles, 2009 – http://www.artnet.com/artists/katy-grannan/anonymous-los-angeles-2009-a-XOW1TQwBiDGVjPRbWTakDw2 [accessed 11/12/18]

Exercise 1.1: Entry 06

So, I’m having another one of those mini-revelations about my photography (the last one I had was while working through DIaC, where I became even more digital than ever before). Anyway, I suppose this mini-rev happened because of the following:

  1. Reading Jackie Higgins’ Why It Does Not Have To Be In Focus, and;
  2. Thinking about how to make friends with skin/strangers for this exercise.

I’ve always understood that photography doesn’t have to be a perfect picture (I’m talking about everything, for example framing and focus), and Jackie Higgins’ book reconfirmed this for me. In fact, I spend quite a bit of time making successful images using unsuccessful images and, so far, I’ve been very happy with the results. I suppose, for me, the final image doesn’t come from the camera–it’s what I do to the image made by the camera (something that I really want to explore further throughout my studies). That said, after reading Why It Does Not Have To Be In Focus, the thing I’ve been completely obsessed with lately is whether or not it is possible to reveal anything concrete about the model/sitter. Or, more accurately, whether or not I want to reveal anything concrete about the sitter.

To be honest, I’m on the fence with this one. While I don’t believe that anything concrete can be revealed about the sitter, I do believe that I’ve tried and succeeded on some level when it comes to my self-portraiture (see blog post Why It Does Not Have To Be In Focus: Portraits). That said, my self-portraiture is full of fiction; like all photography, my images are constructed (and not just digitally but also with lighting, pose, etc.).

Anyway, how does this relate to Exercise 1.1? As said in a previous post for this exercise, I’m concerned about skin/not using skin (see blog post Exercise 1.1: Entry 04). Nutshell: I want to use skin because it’s my thing, however, I’m concerned about how comfortable the model and I will be during the shoot. That said, I think I’ve come up with a possible solution. See example images made from my shoot with Jen:

I photographed Jen’s skin for this shoot and I was more than comfortable to do so (as I said, Jen is a friend who understands my angle and we share similar ideas when it comes to “art”). That said, when creating images to upload to my IG account, I’m very aware of the fact that Jen may not want to whole world to see her so completely. This is reflected in my edits above, where I worked very hard to lose her while still making an image that works for me/says what I want it to say. The result: my edits explore the idea of whether or not the person in the image actually exists… even though Jen modeled, I’d argue than nothing at all was revealed about who Jen is for real.

The above edits considered, rather than photographing potential models with everything hanging out, I could photograph body parts–legs, shoulders, backs, etc.–leaving the model’s modesty intact. I could then use the images to construct something similar to the above. Also, I had an idea for this exercise to create diptychs/triptychs that explore multiple layers of “otherness” (for example a mother who is a black belt, who is also a life model). I wonder how interesting/successful multiple levels of “otherness” combined into one image would be? Food for thought, methinks.

Whatever I decide, I’m thinking that I could explore more of these “non-portraits”–find ways to create images that reveal “otherness” while also keeping identity hidden. Of course, I wonder if that will be me making the same photos I always make when I shoot self-portraits (hiding identity)? And, if so, will my finals really explore the “other” or will my edits obliterate “otherness” and become “sameness”? That said, does it even matter if I end up making the same images I always make? After all, what’s the point of these exercises if I can’t find a way to make them work for me/my style of photography?

Pop goes my head. Again.

This idea is a little lose right now but still something worth remembering/thinking about.

Andy out.

Exercise 1.1: Research: “Otherness”

I understand completely what “otherness” is, however, I wanted to do a short post exploring the idea. This post contains quotes/notes and my brief responses, where necessary, and will be updated as I read.

“The Other is constructed in relation to the self… the Other is dissimilar to – the opposite of – and alien to, the self.”1Perfectly put. I find identity–particularly how we form identity (through similarity/difference)—so interesting (something I studied a long time ago). While it may seem a basic response to make, on some level, I want to be able to specify exactly what is different about each of the models I use for this exercise in relation to the self. My intention right now is to use that difference as the title for each image. For example, The Mother, The Life Model (actually, since talking with the life model and understanding that being naked is the reason he likes to get naked, I want to call him The Exhibitionist). Understanding that difference may also help me decide how to shoot each model.

While I really have no desire to go into phrenology/physiognomy *whatsoever*, I don’t think I could consider a project on “Otherness” without referencing it briefly.

NOTE: my brain shut down for two days straight at the idea of looking into phrenology/physiognomy. And while I do find how people once believed that physical differences between “races” could be used to determine mental state quite interesting/relevant (even though it is now understood/accepted that there is no such thing as biological “race”), the thought of digging through it again for this exercise is just too much for my precious little brain. Instead, I want to talk about the image shown below:


The image above2 can be found in The Photography Reader (see references) and shows a woman viewing a photo of herself, made by Volkmar Kurt Wentzel, that was published in the National Geographic. And, quite honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about it. On some level, I find it interesting—especially how it’s a little meta (a woman photographed for a magazine as she views a photo of herself published in a magazine). On another level, I find it quite offensive. For example, the man presents the image of the woman to the woman as if the image were made by magic (something that she couldn’t possibly understand). While the woman (who possibly knew nothing about technology), may have thought there was something magical about a photo of herself, for me, this image is not about what the woman does/does not know. Instead, it’s another one of those images made to reconfirm superiority of the “civilized” race/an image made for the “civilized” viewer. For me, the image doesn’t say “look at this” to the woman, it says “look at this woman looking at herself” to the civilized, while they listen to their Elvis Presley records.

Note that my feelings are reinforced when considering the caption published with the image: Platter-lipped woman peers at her look-alike in the mirror of National Geographic. I could so go on and on about the language used for the caption (for example “peers” and “look-alike”) but the word I find most interesting is “mirror”as it suggests that an image (published in the National Geographic, at least) is complete truth/can be trusted.

While I’m not quite sure how feel about the above image, I do think it’s a great example of “otherness”—and that meta-thing it has going on is something I’m really eager to explore. I suppose it’s something about separating the person in the image from the image that interests me.

Anyway, the above has made me think a little about intention when I make the images for this exercise. While the theme for this course is the “other” and I will, of course, be looking for something different to the self when I consider potential models, I don’t want that difference—that “otherness”—to be something that would make me feel as if I’m taking advantage of/ridiculing the model (or worse: standing the self on a pedestal by comparison).

Andy out.


1 – Les Monaghan, OCA Coursework PDF, Photography 2: The Self and the Other, 2016

2 – Liz Wells (ed.), The Photography Reader, 2003. Routledge: Oxon.

Personal Project 04: Studio Lighting

This is just a preparatory post for something I did at a professional photography studio today that I intend to write up at a later date. Basically, I had the photographer/studio owner talk me through/demonstrate possible lighting setups. I’ve been meaning to do this for so long but never got around to it. Since I intend to shoot models quite soon (and because I think shooting strangers is best done away from home), I thought it was time for me to learn a little more about the studio.

And, FYI, what a great experience! I will post a few of the images from today when I write the post in full. Bear in mind, though, that the images are truly terrible. Today was just about seeing what happened when I changed lighting setup/camera settings. My next step is to try shoot myself in the studio in effort to get something worthy of showing. After that, I’m going to drag Jen in for another shoot. After that, it’s model time.

Note that even though I’ve posted this as a personal project, really it’s prep for future exercises/assignments.

Exercise 1.1: Entry 05

In effort to progress with this exercise, I wanted to include some ideas I’ve had about my shoots. Note that I still haven’t decided on direction (whether or not to include nudity–see blog post Exercise 1.1: Entry 04), so my ideas include both possibilities. Also note that given my anxiety-level when it comes to the idea of photographing strangers, I think planning/having some idea of what to do is *so* important for this exercise. Not only will it save time, I will also be able to give potential models specific intentions for my shoot.

Some important things about my finals:

  • Visual coherence. I’ve had ideas about creating storyboards (series of images displayed as one image), diptychs, and single images. In order for my finals to work as a set of images, I want all finals to be the same format. This means that once I have my potential models, I will have to think of how to present their “otherness” photographically and decide which format works best (it may be a case of shooting all possible formats and then deciding once I review my images? A lot more thinking work but possibly worth it);
  • Images that communicate “otherness”. While I’ll certainly select my models based on something different to the self, I need this to come through visually. I wonder, though, how to demonstrate “otherness” without an example of the “sameness”? Perhaps my final set will work best if I include some self-portraits in the same format? My idea right now is based on finding models who want to be photographed/present vs. me, who wants disappear on some level (something that could work if I went the Purple Port/Modelmayhem route explained in the post referenced above);

Some ideas I’ve had about the actual shoots:

  • Storyboards. My current potential models considered (a mother, an ex-army officer, a life model), I’m thinking of creating a set of images that show the model doing something that relates to their “otherness”. For example, the mother doing something for the children (could be as simple as cleaning, making food, sending kids off to school before going to work), the life model undressing/posing (that’s all I can think of when I consider a life model who models because he likes the nudity), the ex-army officer doing something (haven’t thought of what that something could be yet since the thing that interests me so much about the ex-army officer is how his son acts based upon his perception of his father–see blog post Exercise 1.1: Entry 03). In other words, a set of finals showing “otherness” by the things that the models do. Note that this would also show difference between the models–another level “otherness”, you could say (IE the different things people do). I think finding models for this idea would be relatively easy; I could advertise, possibly, for potential models based on what they do/how they define themselves (another interesting angle–how we define ourselves). Thinking about this idea a little more, it would be interesting to show “otherness” using the same model. Even though that’s not the point of this exercise, I’d love to show multiple layers of the same person (for example, the mother/ex-army officer/life model could all be the same person). I have some coherence issues with this idea, though. I mean, I’d rather shoot all the models in a studio–I like the idea of creating something that is true but also staged (that whole “what can a portrait really reveal about the model?” thing I’m obsessed with lately)–but how much can a mother do for her children in a studio? Would it work if I were to set up a table with some food and have her make lunch for the kids in the studio? Or would the difference between the setting for each shoot have meaning? In other words, shoot the mother in her home/shoot the life model in the studio?;
  • Single images. For some reason, I’m really into the idea of creating portraits that present the model in the way that they define themselves (for the shoot, at least). For example, ex-army in uniform; life model naked; a mother in (dare I say it) an apron? Of course, I’d have to be *very* mindful of clichés. That said, maybe the cliché would work? Or maybe I could totally avoid the cliché? For example, perhaps the mother does karate? Perhaps an image titled The Mother showing the mother in her karate suit could work? A way to break the cliché, you could say? Done before, I know, but not by me, so it’s ok. What I like about this idea is how I’ve been thinking recently that a portrait says nothing concrete about the model photographed;
  • Single images/typology. I’ve always had this thing for the back–there’s an anonymity I love that comes when a model turns away from the camera/refuses to engage with the viewer. This would work for my nothing-revealed portrait–a non-portrait, if you like. Meaning I could photograph all models from behind, with the same lighting (I wonder how comfortable strangers–especially women–would be having their backs photographed–something about bra strap disturbs me). While this would really tick my boxes, I wonder how interesting it would be to the viewer to see all these examples of “otherness” from the same angle? That said, do I even care? There’s something inverted about this idea of presenting “otherness” as “sameness” that I *really* love. Of course, it could raise questions about my integrity as the photographer (and the student) presenting these people as examples of “otherness” when they could just as easily be a bunch of my friends (almost too tempting to resist);
  • Single images. Something beautifully simple. For example, a swimmer in cap, goggles, and swimsuit preparing to dive, or a bodybuilder flexing–images that are technically perfect with gorgeous lighting to reveal shape. Possibilities with this are endless and I could create a million of these images (depending on the number of models I get and how each model defines him- or herself). The interesting thing is that the images would only communicate a sliver of who the model is (or, possibly, who the model wants to be–a fiction). That whole “does a portrait reveal anything about the model” argument comes to mind;
  • Diptychs. Similar to my cliché/non-cliché idea. Photograph mother doing the thing that she feels defines her as a mother coupled with a photograph that defines her as something other than the mother (karate suit example);
  • Triptychs (wow, I’m on a roll). I literally just thought of this idea as I typed… using the same mother example, I could create a triptych by adding a back image to the mother/karate images (“otherness”/”sameness”–we’re all the same, we are all different). In fact, this on-the-fly idea is my favourite (but then I’d have a problem when it came to the life model–he’d be showing skin in two of the three images).

Anyway, enough. Now I need to do some research. Good thing is these ideas have half got me excited for this exercise again. Also, given that I only intend to shoot the life model nude, I’m okay with the nudity because (I assume) the life model is more than okay with the nudity.

Exercise 1.1: Entry 04

I’m afraid this is going to be another one of those exercises where I spend a lot more time thinking instead of doing. It’s funny because my last module, DIaC, was such a breeze by comparison… the words seemed less important somehow. Even though DIaC was also Level 2, I found it much easier because it didn’t push me in directions that I usually avoid (IE other people), and I didn’t find myself so swallowed by thoughts. And, as said previously, while I could flip the birdie to this module and switch to something easier/quicker (Documentary is looking so pretty right now), the things this course forces me to do are things I actually find interesting/things that I feel will benefit my photography. What can I say: working with other people (particularly strangers) is an anxiety thing, I suppose.

Anyway, in effort to stay on topic, onto Exercise 1.1.

I made a post yesterday re. possible models/ideas (see Exercise 1.1: Entry 03) and, last night, it was so stuck inside my head that I had trouble switching off. I started to think about getting more models by visiting modelmayhem.com and purpleport.com (sites where models self-promote). But there’s this massive problem I have with the people who advertise on these sites: they’re models. And, what’s more, I feel that a model who self-promotes is person who wants to be seen… who wants to be present in the image.

Note: I had such a hard time photographing my American friends (see post Model: Entry 02: Ideas/Research) for the exact same reason: one of them wanted to be present/seen, wanted an image that was about him. I wanted an image that was about no one.

I’m not sure the above will make sense to anyone but me, but in effort to explain, it’s like this: I’d much rather fumble around with someone who doesn’t want to be photographed… who isn’t into the idea of being present in the image… who wants to remain a little hidden; a person a little like me, I suppose. But that’s certainly not what I get from the websites I visited last night. Consider the following screenshot of models in my area, advertising on Purple Port:

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 12.24.56 PM

Everyone appears so present to me. And, while I understand that it’s important for a model to be seen by potential photographers, I also thought to myself: do I really want someone so present/so used to being seen for my photos? Maybe I’m searching the wrong type of site–maybe a model self-promotion site isn’t the best way to find someone who doesn’t want to be photographed (duh)? So, dumbass me thought that perhaps the FridayAD/Craigslist would give better results. And, FYI, I was wrong. In fact, I found the ads a little… disturbing (especially one where the model described himself as a “touch model”) [gritted-teeth emoji].

So, after getting terribly excited about the idea of this exercise, I’m now trying to think of a polite way to say that I’m shitting a brick (pooping a brick?).

Moving on.

I think I’m getting over myself when it comes to the things I’ll have to do for this module. In other words, the things I’m scared of doing are things that I want to try since I understand that they are important things for me to do. So I’m pulling up my big-boy pants, snapping on my latex gloves, and thinking of ways to make this exercise (and photographing the “other”) work for me. Note: if I could only get my head around the idea of photographing five people (models) who wanted to be photographed, I think I’d’ve nailed “otherness” pretty much bang on the head (plus, after looking through the models available, finding diversity would be beans on toast).

In effort to understand what I find so difficult about this exercise, I’ve tried to think and I’ve come up with the following:

  • Shooting nudity concerns me. Yes, something I never thought I’d say. I’m not sure that I’m so into skin for this exercise. This is because of a brief conversation I had with a female model on purple port who said: I just go down to lingerie. There was something about her statement that made me think of a bearded old man holding a sweaty compact while shooting inside a creosote-soaked shed. Put another way: a person who used pictures and “art” as an excuse to see a leggy blonde sat on an upturned bucket wearing nowt but frilly knickers. This is something that terrifies me because, even when I consider using models, I still think of how I will be perceived, both by the model and the people who view my images. Note: I recently did a shoot with the fabulous Jen and it worked so well that we will definitely do it again. And I did what I always do: skin. But the thing about working with Jen is she gets me. And, even more important, I get her. We have similar ideas and the result: a collaborative shoot that worked (and will always work) so well;
  • Not shooting nudity concerns me. Yes, weird given the above. My point: is my avoidance of skin my way of bottling out? Is shooting the “other” fully-dressed a way to half-do what I do/a feeble attempt at making the situation more comfortable for me? Are their clothes a way to keep me warm? At the end of the shoot, will I have progressed with/explored “my thing” (honesty/vulnerability/equality using skin–the reason why I adore Greg Friedler’s Naked series)? And, if I bottle out, will I be selling myself short, not really moving forward/exploring ways of turning the camera away from myself? Or will shooting the “other” fully-dressed be a wonderful example of “otherness” when it comes to my photography?

I’m walking circles again. Trying to wrestle with my left/right side brain; I want to let myself go and keep myself in check at the exact same time: an impossible scenario.

Not all last night’s ideas were so pointless as the above–I had some great ideas about potential shoots, too. But since I don’t want to swallow everyone with my words, I’ll include those ideas in a separate post.

Andy out.

The Clandestine Camera: Images: Finals

I could just bung my finals up, I suppose. But given the stress this exercise caused me, I figured that would be a little anti-climatic, so I included my close contenders (shown below).

Note that my title for this series is I See You and my idea behind it was to show how much I was seen while trying to appear inconspicuous (something I didn’t notice until I reviewed the images):

I think the above images could have worked well for my I See You idea, however, they weren’t included for the following reasons:

  • The person looking at me/my camera is clearly identifiable in some of them–as if that person was the intended subject of the image. While I did find myself aiming my chest (haha) at interesting people, I had no idea if I would capture them. My point: I can’t really claim an intended subject. In fact, my subject came after I reviewed the images;
  • I ended up selecting finals that showed groups of people (reason given below with finals). While I love some of the images above (particularly the first four images and eighth image), they just didn’t fit with my final idea;
  • While some of the above images would have worked for my final idea, they didn’t fit as well as visually. For example, the eleventh image (left column, second from bottom) shows exactly what I want (a slightly out-of-focus person in the background looking at me/my camera), however, it was taken on the seafront–very different visually to the North Laine, where I shot the majority of my images. Note the same can be said for the twelfth image (showing the woman in the coffee shop–perfect for my idea but visually incoherent).

So, why did I choose the following images as finals? Colour was important to me. But the main reason was because the person looking at me/my camera in the selected finals is in the background, slightly out of focus, and requires some sort of interaction between viewer/image to see. The person is the subject for my finals after reviewing my images, however, he or she was not the subject when taking my images (even if the people photographed were people I’d actively aimed my chest at, the person who became the reason for my final selection was not). Plus, there’s this idea of being watched by someone you can’t see that I find so flipping creepy–but an interesting kind of creepy because, of course, we all do it.

Anyway, here they are:

You know, I could carry on with this exercise and get some better shots (especially since I find the last shot a little weak). But I think I’ve gone as far as I want to with this exercise so, you know, I’m not going to.